In The Know: Gov. adds gathering restrictions, but no mask order | New report shows fragile interconnections of public support programs

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

New OK Policy report shows intricate, fragile interconnectedness of public assistance programs for Oklahomans in need: Following the COVID-19 pandemic’s tremendous economic impact, this holiday season may witness more Oklahomans than ever before interacting with state and federal public assistance programs or tax benefits after losing jobs or wages. These Oklahomans will learn what many low-income Oklahomans have learned the hard way — even slight adjustments to their wages can mean the loss of hundreds or thousands of dollars of public assistance or tax breaks designed to support low-income families. A new report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute — entitled “Plateaus and Cliff Effects in Oklahoma” — is among the first of its kind to examine how public supports and income interact to impact low-income Oklahomans. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Stitt adds gathering restrictions, will ‘clarify’ bar rule: Saying it is “time for us to do more in our fight against COVID-19,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced new executive order regulations today that will limit capacities at sporting events and other public gatherings, while also extending previous rules about restaurants, bars and state facilities. [NonDoc] Public gatherings, including weddings, funerals and holiday parties at event centers, will be limited to 50% capacity. Churches will be exempt from the new restrictions, Stitt said. [The Oklahoman] Stitt said he’s also extending requirements for bars and restaurants to keep tables 6 feet apart and close at 11 p.m. and for masks to be worn in state buildings. [Public Radio Tulsa] Stitt said the new capacity restrictions would take effect no later than Monday and last at least 30 days. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle] “Really it’s about hospital capacity right now,” Stitt said. “With the hospitals really being exhausted, and at a point where they’re getting at capacity.” [StateImpact Oklahoma] Stitt also said he would take the vaccination when it is his turn. Oklahoma expects to have 166,000 doses by the end of the month. [Tulsa World]

Mask mandates work better when implemented early, analysis of Oklahoma epidemiologist report shows: Masks matter at all times. But, says Dr. Jennifer Clark, even more so in the early stages of COVID-19 spread to avoid catastrophic surges and hospital capacity issues. Tulsa and Oklahoma City were the two largest of the handful of municipalities that implemented masking requirements in July — most of which were in the OKC metro area — that flatted the curve in August but couldn’t keep it that way without a statewide mandate or more cities joining individually. [Tulsa World]

New to Oklahoma public assistance programs? You should know about the cliff effect: An increasing number of Oklahomans need assistance with housing, food and other bills because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a new report may help individuals navigate the complicated web of public programs. The Oklahoma Policy Institute released a report Friday, called ‘Plateaus and Cliff Effects in Oklahoma,’ that examines the state’s public assistance programs. In addition to outlining each program – it covers the food assistance program SNAP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), various tax credits and more – the report also focuses on what is called the “cliff effect.” [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Coronavirus stigma affects pandemic response: As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued throughout the year, a social stigma has developed around the virus. This stigma can affect the way people manage their own health and the way they communicate with others. [NonDoc]

State Government News

$400 more coming to 120k Oklahomans as unemployment claims rise 55% from last week: New state jobless claims increased 55% last week over the prior week as one unemployment benefit program ends and another is resurrected long enough to provide a one-time $400 payment to the out-of-work. [Tulsa World] Some Oklahomans who lost wages due to the coronavirus pandemic will receive a one-time payment of $400 from the state starting next week, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Director Shelley Zumwalt said Thursday. [AP News]

Top lawmakers defend legislature’s authority, dismiss concept of Stitt as ‘State CEO’: The top state lawmakers from both parties sat down for a public affairs panel with the Oklahoma State Chamber this week, and all of them pushed back on President and CEO Chad Warmington’s opening to a question about the legislature’s working relationship with Gov. Kevin Stitt. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Senator refiles bill to end straight-ticket voting: State Sen. J.J. Dossett hasn’t abandoned his effort to eliminate straight-party voting in Oklahoma. The Owasso Democrat pre-filed Senate Bill 46 for consideration in the Legislature this year. He filed a similar measure in each of the last four years, as well. [The Southwest Ledger]

Legislation arises from Presidential election: Only someone born of parents who were U.S. citizens at that time of that birth could be an officially recognized candidate in Oklahoma for President or Vice President, under a bill filed in the state Senate. Another measure directly related to the quadrennial general election would require Presidential electors to swear an oath not to cast a ballot based on any factors other than election results in this state. [Southwest Ledger]

Oklahoma House of Representatives begins public meetings on legislative redistricting: Official U.S. Census figures won’t arrive until spring, but a handful of Tulsans were given an early look at legislative redistricting Thursday night during a public meeting at Tulsa Technology Center’s Riverside Campus. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma lawmakers will hold a series of town hall meetings over the next two months to discuss redistricting. [NewsOn6]

Federal Government News

States fire back at Texas over case backed by Oklahoma attorney general: Two dozen states pushed back hard on Thursday against a lawsuit filed by Texas and supported by Oklahoma aimed at overturning election results in four states that favored President-elect Joe Biden. [The Oklahoman]

  • Many Oklahoma Republicans express support for Texas lawsuit seeking to subvert election results [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Olain Jefferson Jr. death in custody: Oklahoma City Police video shows struggle: Oklahoma City police body camera footage of the night a 56-year-old Black man died in custody shows medical personnel struggling with him and cheering after he is restrained. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Symposium addresses rising needs in rural communities: Academics and leaders from Oklahoma and 13 other states gathered virtually recently to explore strategies for strengthening rural communities. The inaugural Rural Renewal Symposium brought nearly 100 participants from 14 states together. [The Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Experts: Aerospace is booming in Oklahoma: This is the most exciting time in history for the aerospace industry in Oklahoma, according to a panel of experts who spoke during the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s State of the Aerospace Industry online event held Thursday. [The Journal Record]

Tourism department wraps Oklahoma Road Trip video series: Nearly $12 million in revenue was generated for hotels and other providers of lodging in the Sooner State by an “Oklahoma Road Trip” video series that wrapped recently, the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department reported Thursday. [The Journal Record]

Education News

School finance chiefs call on state leaders to intervene before hike in funding to Epic Charter Schools: School finance chiefs from many of the biggest districts in the state are calling on the governor, attorney general and state superintendent to intervene ahead of a looming financial windfall for Epic Charter Schools. [Tulsa World]

EPS superintendent proposes revision to COVID-19 plan: Enid Public Schools’ superintendent will recommend at Monday’s school board meeting that the district follow new guidelines to determine whether to move to distance learning beginning in the spring semester. [Enid News & Eagle]

General News

6 candidates file for Oklahoma Senate seat to be vacated by Stephanie Bice: Six candidates are running to fill the Oklahoma Senate seat that will be vacated by U.S. Rep.-elect Stephanie Bice. Four Republicans and two Democrats filed to vie for the Senate District 22 seat. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“These (public support) programs, many of them have the avowed purpose of helping people move from needing assistance to self sufficiency. What we hope is their earnings will go up. But, without intention, we punish them for that. And that is what we need to think about.”

-Paul Shinn, OK Policy Budget and Tax Senior Analyst, speaking about a new report addressing how public support programs interact and create unintentional cliffs and plateaus  [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who live in poverty

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

12 Million Workers Facing Jobless Benefit Cliff on December 26: The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed record levels of unemployment and unemployment claims, with 9.5 million Americans filing applications by the end of March alone, and millions more in the months that followed. With no end to the pandemic in sight, and a cutoff of nearly all federal unemployment benefits by year’s end looming on the horizon, inaction by Congress could mean that millions of American families will enter the New Year with little or no means of support. [The Century Foundation]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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